What do you mean you have an accidental farm? I get this question a lot. And I have been unfurling the story, the facts of the accidental farm on Instagram (@xoxofarmgirl) -- their arrivals, their lives, the how, the hilarity. It started with chickens and continued through bees, goats, donkeys and now ducks. But that is only part of the story. Two underlying stories are key here. Both of them are cautionary tales in a way, but in two very different directions.
The first one is this. An accidental farm implies minimal planning and maximum surprise. Poof, chickens. Zap, goats and so on. This is true of my farm to some extent. I did not lay out a strategy. I tried chickens. And loved them. Yes, I got a book on chickens and a little coop. But soon I learned that I needed to know more and -- after evidence of small predators and then a bigger (and quite brutal) bear attack -- that I needed a more protective chicken fortress. The farm began as and continues to be a live and learn environment.
Chickens are easy. But let me use donkeys as a better example of how -- despite the fact that my accidental farm is perpetually cute and funny -- one should not enter lightly into starting one. Donkeys live to be 40 or 50. Yup. They do. And I got Murphy when he was two. So that's a 48-year commitment. Shocking, right? Having animals on your farm is a responsibility. So, while donkeys are cute and endearing and perfect in so many ways, when the cameras are off and the visitors have gone and the weather is -15 degrees, I still have donkeys. I am not complaining. But it's serious.
Folks say to me all the time that they are thinking about having a donkey. I say one word to them: Two. Donkeys don't want to be alone. And as good company as goats or chickens are, your donkey is going to want another donkey or similar equine friend. Don't kid yourself into thinking otherwise. One summer before we got Clover (the only animal that is not accidental here) Murphy co-habitated with a cow. Betsy was better than nothing, but she's no donkey.
While the first understory is cautionary in a "be careful" kinda way, the second is cautionary in a "don't be too careful" kinda way. Trying chickens was a magical experience here. They are funny and wise, hearty and frail, hardworking and silly. The hens led us to be open to goats, to donkeys, to bees, to ducks and to ideas we never knew we had. Every animal comes with its own set of challenges and rewards. And every animal has changed me for the better. When you spend your life with animals you understand the world just a little bit better. You see people differently. You see the goat in some friends, the chicken in others, and you love them despite their donkey-ness. You also develop a deeper appreciation for the land, the weather, life and death in a layered and profound way.
So many of us live life in our own lanes, never really swerving out too often. Over the past several years (11 if you're counting) I have left my lane so many times I am not sure which one I started in or which one I am in now. And yet my farm and my animals have led me to farmers. To creating a podcast about them, two Instagram accounts and endless content that aims to give you a hundred ways to connect with my life, the lives of my animals and land, and especially that of our farmers. I am pretty sure I would not be leaving my comfort zone on the daily if it weren't for this accidental farm. I do hope you join me to change lanes, to find new areas of comfort in discomfort and to connect with layers and versions of life where the unfamiliar becomes familiar.
So keep The Accidental Farm in mind. Take a chance. Do something new. Try putting yourself out there in a new way. Be open to possibilities. That's the story here. Accidents happen and they can change everything. For the better.
xoxo Farm Girl